Roscommon is home to a unique and historic trail, the National Famine Way. The trail traces the footsteps of the 1,490 famine emigrants who left Strokestown in 1847 and tells the story of their journey to Dublin Port and onward to the UK and North America.
The Great Famine of Ireland, also known as the “Potato Famine,” was a period of mass starvation, disease, and emigration between 1845 and 1852. It had a devastating impact on the country, particularly in rural areas like Roscommon. At the time, the majority of the population in Ireland was dependent on the potato for survival. When the potato blight hit the crops in 1845, it caused widespread destruction and left the people of Roscommon and the rest of Ireland without a primary source of food.
For many people, emigrating was the only option. However, their landlord was the one who paid for their passage because it was cheaper for him to assist their emigration than it was to keep them in the poorhouse. The National Famine Way gives visitors a remarkable and poignant way to engage with the experience of these emigrants and understand the impact of the famine on the local community.
The trail route connects Strokestown Park with Rowan Gillespie’s Famine Memorial on Custom House Quay in Dublin, travelling along the banks of the Royal Canal. The self-guided heritage trail is supported by clear signage, a map produced by Ordnance Survey Ireland, excellent digital interpretation, and a passport or guide that helps visitors follow the route.
The National Famine Way starts at Strokestown Park House, which is less than a 20-minute drive from Gleeson’s Townhouse. This is a unique chance to learn more about the terrible events of the Great Famine and pay tribute to the thousands of people who were forced to leave their homes in search of a better life.